The Master Mechanic

I’ve always said that a mechanic becomes a Master Mechanic when he or she makes his own tools. Some bike repair scenarios require very specific tools, and it’s impossible to press others into duty. In the brilliant Hard on Equipment, Corb Lund sings;

Well it’s vise grips for pliers /
And pliers for a wrench /
A wrench for a hammer /
Hammers everything else.

That’s just not going to cut it when you need to replace a headset. Which you actually would use a hammer for…

Bad example.

Seriously though, if you want to do it right, and not destroy the frame, you need a headset presses. Similarly, you need starnut setting tools, bottom bracket facing tools, cone wrenches, and truing stands.

Though some brave souls will take matters into their own hands.

I myself have done this. There was a broken Cinelli frame at Redbike that I took home. There was nothing special about it, other than the Cinelli sticker, but I thought it might make nice wall art.

Eventually, I decided to make a truing stand out of it. If I cut one side of the rear triangle off, then I could attach the wheel, and maybe run a screw through the chainstay to check the wheel with. I wouldn’t be able to move it up and down for different sized wheels, but maybe I could a couple for different sized wheels?

I struggled greatly with this part; so much so that I gave up on the project very quickly. It probably didn’t occur to me then that I could never fit a mountain bike wheel on there unless I removed the tire anyway.

So it was a failure for me, but there are definitely some mechanics willing to try a little harder. Or, a lot harder in this case. This is crazy and amazing.

It’s got old bike parts in it, non-bike hardware, zip-ties, open end wrenches, multiple clamps… It’s a dog’s breakfast of metal. I believe there is a thread on retrobike.co.uk explaining it, but I’m just too lazy to find it. Let’s just consider it as is, without the backstory.

Firstly, hats off to this madman for building this rig. I don’t think there’s any question this was more about “can I do this?” than “will this do a good job?” And that’s ok. I’ve built a lot of bikes on this premise – I still do in fact. However, I have some questions;

How does the wheel sit in the arms? I see wrenches zip-tied to the L-brackets, but they look way bigger than the axle on the wheel.

How do you adjust the arms for a rear wheel, which has 135mm spacing vs. the 100mm spacing on this front wheel? Maybe you can open the work bench, and back out the nuts on those long rods, but that seems like a lot of work.

How does that fork/bar/stem thing work? (So many questions about this alone!) How are you sure the holes drilled in the stanchions are squared up properly? How are you sure the steerer tube is dead center on the wheel? What is holding the handlebar in place?

Wait! I’ve just realized there is a second stem there. It’s a quill type stem (the main bolt to tighten it at 2, and it grabs the handlebar at 1) and it’s securing the bar/fork combo. I can’t figure out (at 3 here) what the quill stem is attached to. It would allow for easy adjustment of the truing rods in the fork, to handle different sized wheels though.

It’s all well and good, but why not run bolts through the L-brackets for truing the wheel? Using old bike parts is cool, but you’ve already got a built-in spot for those truing rods, that are (presumably) square to the wheel. Just thinking about the effort involved in making sure the holes you drilled in the fork stanchions are straight, and in making sure the four bike parts are all square, just makes me tired.

I think I’d rather tighten up the brakes, and attempt truing the wheel on the bike, which is definitely dodgy, than bother with all this. But, this guy has done it, and it works for him, so… well done sir!

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